Sony Pictures' Jeff Blake Leaving Studio
UPDATED: The executive, who also serves as the studio's vice chairman, is leaving after 22 years with the company.
Sony Pictures' vice chairman Jeff Blake is stepping down after 22 years with the studio, it was announced Tuesday.
The move, which has been rumored for several months, leaves the studio without a head for its worldwide marketing and distribution.
In the interim, Sony’s worldwide distribution head Rory Bruer will take over Blake's duties on the distribution front, while marketing chief Dwight Caines will tackle Blake's marketing domain.
But a source says that studio heads Michael Lynton and Amy Pascal see Blake's departure, which was characterized as a mutual decision, as a chance to evaluate the entire group, and they will look both internally and externally to fill Blake's post.
Blake's departure is the highest-ranking executive exit in more than a decade at the studio, which had been one of Hollywood's most stable but endured a dismal year at the box office in 2013 with such duds as White House Down and After Earth. The string of underperformers led to marketing head Marc Weinstock being ousted and calls from parent company Sony Corp. to begin a major cost-cutting initiative.
“I have had a great 22 years here at Sony Pictures and have worked for and with some amazing people,” Blake said. “I have tremendous respect for Michael and Amy, and I wish them and the great team at Sony nothing but the best.”
Added Lynton: "I want to thank Jeff for his 22 years of loyal commitment and service to SPE. We are grateful for his incredible achievements and accomplishments. Jeff has had a unique ability to positively impact nearly everyone at the company. We will miss him and wish him the best in the future."
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Pascal, who has worked side by side with Blake for more than two decades, called him "the best partner anyone could ever want." She added, "We have benefited greatly from his wisdom and genius. As sad as I am about his decision to leave, we all wish only the best possible things for him.”
Blake played a key role in making the Spider-Man property into a formidable franchise and creating the mammoth tentpole opening (2002's Spider-Man was the first film to reach $100 million in domestic box office in its opening weekend).
Blake also was responsible for the launch of all of the films in the Men in Black and Da Vinci Code franchises. He also oversaw the marketing and distribution of the three most successful films in the James Bond franchise, including Skyfall, which earned more than $1.1 billion worldwide. He also led the campaigns for 15 films starring Adam Sandler, which together grossed more than $2.6 billion in worldwide box office, and 11 films starring Will Smith, which grossed more than $3.8 billion total in worldwide box office.
Blake joined SPE in 1992, becoming president of Sony Pictures Releasing two years later. He has served as vice chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment since 2002 and as chairman of worldwide marketing and distribution for Sony Pictures Worldwide Marketing and Distribution since 2005.
It is unclear what Blake will do next, as the move is not being referred to as a retirement.